As we know, Steve Jobs, co-founder and creative mastermind behind Apple Computer, died Wednesday at age 56.
Many have focused on Jobs and his relentless attention to detail, his company was synonymous with technological breakthrough and aesthetic beauty. And while those are important, those who latch onto those as the secret behind Apple’s indelible success and ferocious 21st-century comeback only hit the mark halfway.
What truly set Apple apart, and what truly made Jobs an innovator with whom fans and devotees of his products followed with frenzied fervor, is something far more elementary than what surely went into the 300+ patents and countless other innovations that bear Jobs’ name.
Jobs did something with technology, and by extension business, that few CEOs or computer geniuses – many of whom may have been more gifted than him – could ever hope to accomplish. Steve Jobs created products that made people feel good.
Ask anyone who’s ever purchased an Apple product, and especially ask those who’ve purchased many of them, how they feel about their purchase. Whether a Mac, an iPod, iPhone or iPad, the user always felt engaged and, in some cases, borderline euphoric, while operating that slick piece of metal in their possession. They often speak of it with the same reverence normally reserved for friends, charitable works, favorite sports teams or works of art. Apple didn’t make machines, Apple made extensions of the human soul.
Apple made products people cheered for, pined for and adored. People felt connected to Apple’s product line. It spoke to them, and after countless years of innovation and mutation, it became them.
A new breakthrough from Apple felt like a communal discovery. It felt like a kindred realization between old friends. And it’s this humanization, this amiability of Apple that connected each gadget to its creator. It didn’t hurt that Jobs spoke of his devices in much the same way a proud parent beamed about his child, and with each new release, it was as if Jobs himself was narrating his children growing up, passing through the stages of life.
And we watched them grow, we watched them evolve, and Jobs sucked us in right from conception. He created buzz, and each product delivered with a crisp, beautiful interface and intuitive design that was as revolutionary as it was simplistic. It was the bizarre union of power and likability that made Apple’s products, and Jobs himself, so enthralling. That union gave both the man and his machines two things neither technology nor business is known for: character and charm.
There were smarter people than Einstein, but Einstein came off as sweet, grounded and principled. Edison was a mad scientist, but is remembered as much for his self-deprecation and human connection with his inventions as he is for his singular genius.
Apple quite often didn’t make the first of its kind, or in rarer occasions, the best of its kind. But it did make the only anything of its kind that truly mattered and captivated the masses.
And it’s that ability to breed followers that truly is the hallmark of one’s legacy. Someone, and it’s been butchered so many times by so many that it doesn’t matter who, once wrote “In the end, no one will remember what you said or did, they will only remember how you made them feel.”
Jobs’ legacy as a man who created things that made people feel genuinely good will long outlast the usefulness of the enduring technology behind his many endearing creations.